Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting to Puerto Vallarta

I wanted to post a few quick tips for people flying to Puerto Vallarta (Airport code PVR). My city guide is here.

Last update 12 Dec 2016
  • This chart on Wikipedia lists every direct flight destination to/from Puerto Vallarta. Some are seasonal (i.e., only in winter). This is a good reference point if you're confused about why you're not finding a flight you wanted. Many of the flights aren't 7 days a week!
  • United sometimes stocks margarita mix and tequila on flights to/from Mexico but they run out fast so order early :)
  • American citizens need to have a passport to go to Mexico
  • Customs at PVR closes around 5pm, so if you want to land later than that, you need to be arriving from Mexico City, Guadalajara, or elsewhere within the Mexico. 
from NYC
  • United offers direct service from Newark 2 days a week on Saturdays (2 flights) and Sundays (one flight). It's a 6 hour flight. 
  • Delta has seasonal direct service from JFK on Saturday only, with an odd blackout from Jan 14 - Feb 11.
  • It's nearly impossible to leave NYC early enough to fly via SFO or LAX. Though due to 2016's big blizzard, I can now say with first-hand experience that yes, you can do JFK-LAX-PVR if you don't mind getting up at 4am. It's a very tight connection, but we landed at LAX like 5 gates away from the departure gate. 
  • There is no international-style lie-flat First Class service into Vallarta from NYC, it's all the 38" recliner seats you see on most US domestic First. 
  • Aeromexico offers connecting service though Mexico City. Flight 405 (9:00am) and flight 409 (2:00pm) out of JFK is on a 787 with lie-flat Business Class on the JFK > MEX leg. [My trip report]
  • Other common one-stop routes: American via Phoenix or Dallas, Air Canada via Toronto
from San Francisco
  • Virgin America, United, and Alaska all have direct service from SFO to Puerto Vallarta. Alaska has direct service 7 days a week. Virgin flies twice a week on Wed/Sat, United 3x on Wed/Sat/Sun. The direct flight takes 3 hours and 40 minutes.
  • Virgin America's First Class is vastly superior to United and Alaska's. Huge massage seats with 55" of seat pitch (versus 38"), seatback entertainment, friendly flight attendants, decent food, free-flowing liquor, and a general sense of glamour. Sadly the flight is poorly timed with the Virgin Clubhouse so no lounge access for you. 
  • Common one-stop itineraries: US Airways via Phoenix, Delta/Aeromexico via Mexico City, Frontier via Denver

after you land

  • When you arrive in Mexico, there's a big button in customs that you push in front of an officer, if it turns red, s/he searches all of your bags. If the light is green, they don't. Luck of the draw... 
  • It's best to pre-arrange an airport car service through your hotel. The car service offices are in the main lobby of the airport AFTER the gauntlet of people trying to sell you vacations and "car services" outside of security.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Vallarta is on the state boundary between Jalisco and Nayarit (the Ameca river separates the two), and the two are in different time zones. Triple check your departure times and your plans with friends if you stay north of the river.
  • Prices are in Pesos, but are shown with a $ (sometimes MX$). The exchange rate is 18 Pesos per dollar (Feb 2016). We usually bring enough Pesos with us to at least cover the taxi and any emergency needs.
  • We usually use an indoor ATM to take out Pesos. The bank exchange rate is usually favorable, but we've seen a lot of insider fraud recently, so on this last trip we just canceled our cash cards as soon as we got back home just to be safe. 
  • My custom google map of Vallarta with a few noteworthy places on it

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